SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 8, 2023

Episode Summary

A new day for CAA and what it means; Josh Harris hits all the right notes; Gillette Stadium's $250M reno to open eyes; And Roger Goodell's long-term vision?

Episode Transcription

We have more than a hundred team and league executives attending SBJ's Drive conference September 19th to the 21st in St. Louis. Hope you register today at, or ping me if you have any questions, but I would love to see you in St. Louis.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, September 8th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Of course the NFL season kicked off Thursday night, more on that in a bit. But first we have a new owner of Creative Artists Agency, CAA, Artemis. That is the Pinault family's investment company has secured a majority stake in CAA, and this is a big deal. And now CAA will be in the $40 billion portfolio of the company that contains Gucci, Saint Laurent, and the auction house Christie's. So certainly CAA joining a very diversified portfolio.

Now the deal gives CAA valuation of $7 billion. That's according to the LA Times. Now remember, TPG held the majority ownership stake in CAA. They became majority owner in 2014, but now TPG is out, Artemis is in. I don't expect anything to change dramatically because right away it was announced that CAA co-chairs Bryan Lord, Kevin Huvane, and Richard Lovett will remain in their roles, making long-term commitments to continue to lead the agency. Jim Burston will continue to serve as President of CAA.

And we all know the driver that sports has become to this agency. It is increasingly more and more important to CAA, especially with all the turmoil in Hollywood. This will mean, likely mean, that Artemis will need to secure long-term deals with the key players at CAA sports, notably Howie Nuchow, Mike Levine, and Paul Danforth. And if anything, I believe this new ownership structure will give those leaders more firepower to grow CAA Sports. There should be greater willingness to invest in new areas of the sports business, and CAA Sports will certainly become more powerful and more influential with this additional financial horsepower. The deal with Artemis is expected to be completed later this year, so more to come as CAA has a new majority owner in Artemis.

I mentioned at the top of the Buzzcast, the first weekend of the NFL's regular season got off to a surprising start last night. I'll be honest. Yes, I went to bed with the Chiefs up 14 to seven, probably thinking they'd hold on, but maybe, maybe the Lions upset portends and interesting season to come around the NFL. One team so many people are watching is the Commanders. Under new ownership in Josh Harris, Sunday's home opener for the Commanders against the Cardinals is sold out, and the team last sold out its home opener in 2019. The Commanders have added thousands of new season ticket holders. And remember, last season the commanders had the League's lowest attendance at just over 58,000 fans per game. That will change this year.

There is just so much energy around the team. And new owner Josh Harris is saying and doing all the right things. He really knows the role of ownership. He has done it before with the 76ers and the Devils, although you could argue the NFL is a bigger beast. Josh Harris has been very visible. He said he will be at every home game. He's very clear about his role. He wants to be a responsible steward. He wants to do the right thing. He says he wants to engage with the city. He wants to improve the fan experience. He wants to give back and change communities, and ultimately win football games. That to me is a great recipe for success.

Meanwhile, his partner, Mitchell Rales said this week that the ship has sailed regarding reverting the team name back to the Redskins, but he did say that ownership will look at everything at the end of the year. They'll think about a lot of different things, they'll test a lot of things, and they will see what the fans think. Rales said that the Commander's ownership is in a very good position to take their time, to look at everything intelligently, and make what he called fan base decisions. But I'll just say, I believe the new ownership group of the Commanders, they are hitting all the right marks as they start their tenure.

Also, this weekend I'll be watching to see how the Patriots honor Tom Brady during a halftime ceremony at Sunday season opener against the Eagles. Sunday will mark Brady's first return to Foxboro and Gillette Stadium since he and the Buccaneers visited in 2021, and it's the first time he's visited Foxboro since he officially retired. Now, there will be a lot of eyes on this. We all know the tense relationship at times between Brady and the Patriots, and certainly the Patriots haven't had the best, most successful run since Brady left.

Now, the team will be playing the Eagles, that's a tough matchup. One wonders about the dynamics at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, but one thing to keep your eye on if you're watching from home is the completed 250 million renovation of Gillette Stadium. You'll see a completely enclosed north end of the stadium that'll have a large entertainment area. There is the video board, which is one of the largest now in outdoor stadiums. And there is a recently reconstructed, taller, more pronounced lighthouse, which will allow fans to actually go through the lighthouse, and they'll actually hold functions in that lighthouse that oversees the north end of the stadium.

Now, construction took 16 months. The Kraft family funded this privately, so there are a lot of interesting elements to this renovation. They did new initiatives around creating open spaces around Gillette Stadium and security screening, and really work to improve ingress and egress. And I really believe, and I'm hearing from others, that other facilities, other teams around the country, will be watching how that renovation plays out at Gillette Stadium.

We have some more NFL news because The Athletic and Richard Deitsch released its annual reader survey on NFL broadcast teams. And guess which one was the most popular? CBS's Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and Tracy Wolfson once again topped the survey of which national broadcast team readers most look forward to watching every Sunday. They received roughly 30% of the vote. Now that was down from last year when they received 36% of the vote. Now the survey also showed that the Fox team, that's Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, Tom Rinaldi, they are in the second spot at more than 25% of support. And that is up big time from last year where they only received around 9%. ESPN's Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Lisa Salters came in third with around 19% of the vote.

So it's an unscientific survey, but it is a survey, and it runs counter to the narrative that the team of Nantz and Romo has kind of lost some of their mojo. And of course, the reports that Romo in particular has lost some of his fastball. It doesn't seem that viewers seem to see it that way as they still voted Nantz, Romo and Tracy Wolfson as the national team they prefer to see every Sunday.

And I'm going to turn to my producer, Reggie Walker, big football guy, played at Penn State, I know he watches the game and the business around the NFL very closely. Reggie, what are you watching as we start the NFL season?

I think it's going to going to be a really interesting year in terms of viewership really, because from a business standpoint all of these teams ... There's a lot of divisions, probably three divisions, in which there's some discussion that all four teams could make the playoffs. So I think late in the year we're going to see some really, really good viewership numbers because so many more games are going to matter.

And I'm not even going to ask you your Super Bowl pick, unless you want to float one out now?

It would've been the Chiefs, but after that loss on Thursday night I don't know how I feel, but I still think they're going to be in the mix. So go ahead and give me the Chiefs in the AFC. And I'm going to go a little bit off the board in the NFC. I'm going to say the Dallas Cowboys make it. Why not?

Whoa, I like it, Reggie. I like it. So he's off the Chiefs, almost off the Chiefs bandwagon after one week, but no, he brings them back and has his Chiefs/Cowboys pick. And Reggie knows I know a lot about sports business, I don't know much about sports, so I'm going to punt on my Super Bowl pick.

But I will say, Reggie referenced the game on Thursday night. If you watched NBC's pregame show, you saw Mike Tirico interview NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And you had to admit, Goodell looks super fit and ready to tackle another year. I bring that up because I'm starting to buy into the narrative that I'm hearing more and more, that Roger Goodell may remain as commissioner longer than many of us anticipated. Some saw three more years and speculated Goodell would have a very successful second career in private equity, on corporate boards, speaking and teaching.

But more and more people I speak with suggest that his real goal is to surpass the tenure of his mentor, Pete Rozelle. Pete Rozelle ran the NFL for almost 30 years. Roger Goodell learned at the side of Pete Rozelle. Roger Goodell is healthy, he's 64, he takes great care of himself. And if he leads the NFL for another 13 years to 2036, he would be 77 and the longest-sitting NFL commissioner in history, overtaking Pete Rozelle. In addition, what's often overlooked is that Roger Goodell loves, loves, loves football. He was captain of his high school football team in New York. He loved his one-year internship with the Jets coaching staff early in his career. I've been told by associates of Goodell time and again how Roger Goodell will travel on his off day to watch a high school football game. Or he'll comment about an amazing coffin corner punt in a second quarter in a college game.

He loves the game and he wants to be around the game. And those close to him sense that he truly believes he is the best person for the job, and that an aging NFL ownership base needs him. They see him as the glue that holds the League and the League's success together. So bottom line, the number of smart people talking about an extended tenure for Roger Goodell has me starting to agree that could be the case.

We're going to end the Buzzcast on some quick hitters. Coach Prime has his home opener Saturday versus Nebraska, and he continues to deliver for Colorado. The school has sold out its next two home games, and now has sold out four of the six home games at Folsom Field. This is the first time since 1996 that Colorado has had as many as three sellouts in one season. Meanwhile, Coach Prime's debut on Saturday, the big win over TCU, was a huge draw for Fox. They drew more than 7 million viewers on that big noon Saturday window. That is Fox's best week-one game yet in that marquee window. It was the top college football rated game last Saturday. And that's the early game, 12 noon Eastern Time, so the early returns are very, very strong around Coach Prime.

And finally, if I was in college still and oh, those were the fun days, I would love to be part of this class. The architect behind the launch of Major League Soccer, Mark Abbott. He has joined Georgetown University as an executive and resident. Now the former MLS President and Deputy Commissioner, who in the early '90, he drew up the blueprint for the League's entire structure, set up, schedule, single entity ownership, all of it. Abbott will provide students with insight and perspective from his career throughout sports, and particularly in growing Major League Soccer. Boy, that would be one class I would learn a ton from and would love to have been able to sit in on.

And that is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, September 8th. For Reggie Walker, I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Have a great opening NFL weekend. Stay healthy, be good to each other, I'll speak to you on Monday.